Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor what both gubernatorial candidates need going into their final debate tonight.
If Democratic nominee Barbara Buono wants to stand out against her competitor, current governor and Republican nominee Chris Christie, Murray says she needs to do exceptionally well and hope her opponent makes a mistake.
“She needs to hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with two outs,” said Murray. “This is really do or die for her and it’s not only up to her. She has to hope Chris Christie makes a huge mistake and I’m talking about a mistake in portions that we’ve never seen before.”
Throughout the first of the two debates, Murray said that Buono hit on a lot of issues, but that the average voter might have walked away not knowing why Buono would be a better governor. Christie played it calm and cool, according to Murray.
Murray also said that Buono’s strategies haven’t been working to characterize Christie as being out of step with New Jersey voters. The latest polls show that a majority think Christie is in step on issues within the state.
“She’s tried to characterize him as out-of-step. She’s pulled out some issues like gay marriage which he vetoed and most New Jerseyans agree with,” said Murray. “Gun control, a whole host of other things and New Jerseyans tell us, ‘You know what? On the issues that matter, Chris Christie is in step. At least the ones that we care about for our governor.’ I mean, the poll that we had out today shows that very clearly where a clear majority of six in 10 New Jerseyans say that Chris Christie is basically in step of the things that are important in this race. So what she, Barbara Buono, has not done is say either these issues where he is obviously out of line with New Jersey’s views are important or she’s found another issue that should be more important.”
Murray believes that Buono has tried to hit a lot of issues but that none of them are sticking.
The latest poll shows Christie has gotten many supporters in the minority community, which is somewhat unusual for a Republican.
As for the Senate race between Cory Booker and Steve Lonegan, Booker leads by 10 points but that is not exactly what pollsters were expecting, according to Murray. He said most expected Booker to be farther ahead of his opponent. And with the special election, turnout is expected to be lower because of the rare election date, says Murray.
“In a typical Senate race, we get 46 to 48 percent of voters to come out to vote if the Senate is on the top of the ballot,” said Murray. “We’re not gonna see this on a Wednesday in October. Our own models are showing somewhere between 35 to 40 percent. It could be lower than that. And that’s basically making this race close. It’s a base race. You don’t see a lot of lawn signs out, you don’t see a lot of the usual information that comes out to get those Independents out to vote. Both sides have written off the Independent vote because they’re splitting it and they’re trying to get their base out.”
Murray said that the Monmouth polls looked at voting records to determine who voted in past elections and if they knew there was a special election going on. About 10 percent were not aware of the Senate election and they were among the past voters.